Petitions to Seal a Criminal Record in Oakland
Not every arrest results in a guilty plea or a conviction that stands up on appeal. Sometimes, arrests do not even produce criminal charges. However, if you have been arrested or detained, anyone requesting a criminal background check on you could learn of the incident. The fact police suspected you of involvement in a crime might make you a victim of stigma.
Until recently, a person who was arrested wrongly or mistakenly had to petition a court to declare him or her factually innocent. A recent change in the law makes it easier for many people to have their arrest records sealed as of right. Talk to a local criminal attorney about petitions to seal criminal records in Oakland if you want to shield a criminal matter from the public eye.
What Does Sealing a Criminal Record Accomplish?
Criminal records are public records, and anyone could access them. Prospective employers, institutes of higher education, banks, and potential landlords may request a criminal background check on people they might do business with.
Given a choice, many people might prefer not to associate with someone with an arrest record, even if they were not convicted of a crime. Prejudice against people with criminal records could lead to lost opportunities for bank loans, employment, housing, volunteering, college or technical school admissions, and professional licensing.
When a record is sealed, the public no longer has access to it. A criminal background check will not reveal that the record even exists. Law enforcement agencies still could access the record, but the booking information, police notes, mug shots, fingerprints, and court records will all be inaccessible to the public. As such, someone who was arrested in Oakland may wish to petition to seal his or her criminal record.
Eligibility Requirements for Sealing ‘As of Right’
Sealing a record as of right means that if you ask the court and you meet the requirements, your request will be granted. Although California Penal Code §851.91 makes it simpler for many people to get their arrest records sealed, not everyone can take advantage of the process. Only people may request that their records be sealed as of right if:
- Prosecutors never charged them with the crime for which they were arrested, and the statute of limitations for the crime has expired
- Prosecutors brought charges but they were dismissed and cannot be re-filed, or the charges did not lead to a guilty plea or conviction
- A criminal trial ended in a jury verdict of not guilty
- An Appellate court overturned a conviction
- Individual successfully completed a pre-sentencing or pre-trial diversion program
Even when an individual can meet one of these conditions, there are other restrictions at play. People who were arrested for murder or another charge that does not have a statute of limitations, and people who evaded prosecution through identity fraud or other means, cannot have their records sealed as of right.
Finally, if an arrest was related to domestic violence, child abuse, or elder abuse, and the individual has other arrests for similar conduct, a court could opt not to seal the record. In that case, the person would have to convince a court that sealing the record serves the interests of justice. An Oakland criminal attorney could help craft a persuasive declaration setting forth the reasons why sealing the record is right in a particular case.
Procedure for Sealing a Criminal Record in Oakland
Although the law says a record could be sealed “as of right” under certain circumstances, that does not mean it happens automatically. An individual must file a legal document called a petition asking to have his or her record sealed.
The defendant’s lawyer could prepare the petition and serve it on the appropriate court. He or she must also serve the prosecutor and law enforcement agency that arrested the individual. If there is an objection, the court will schedule a hearing.
The prosecutor must prove why sealing the record does not serve the interests of justice. However, if the arrest concerns domestic violence, child abuse, or elder abuse, the individual has the burden of proving that sealing is appropriate and fair.
Work With an Experienced Oakland Attorney to Seal Your Record
You should not have to live with the consequences of an arrest record if the prosecutor could not prove a case against you. The law recognizes how unfair this is and offers a remedy by allowing arrestees to seal their records from the public.
If you want to bring a petition to seal a criminal record in Oakland, get help from a qualified defense attorney. Reach out today to get a knowledgeable advocate on your side.